Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 13, 2009

Inkyard Press: Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros

Chronicle Prism: Men in Blazers Present Gods of Soccer: The Pantheon of the 100 Greatest Soccer Players (According to Us) by Roger Bennett, Michael Davies, and Miranda Davis; illustrated by Nate Kitch

Neal Porter Books: I Don't Care by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Tor Nightfire: The Spite House by Johnny Compton

Candlewick Press (MA): Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens, illustrated by Monica Mikai

Popular Book Company (Usa): Complete Curriculum Success Series, Math Success Series, English Success Series, 365 Fun Days

Yen on: Fox Tales by Tomihiko Morimi, translated by Winifred Bird


March Madness: McPhee Leads Basketball Book Playoffs

As the NCAA basketball tournament approaches, passions are running high in the book world, too. After a heated early round contest between Foul!: The Connie Hawkins Story and The Breaks of the Game, a new favorite has emerged from the pack:

"OK, after pieces on this subject in the last two days, I have to weigh in. While I admit to not having read Foul!: The Connie Hawkins Story, someone has to speak up for John McPhee's portrait of Bill Bradley, A Sense of Where You Are (FSG), widely regarded as one of the best sports books ever penned."--Kevin Morrissey, managing editor, Virginia Quarterly Review.

"The best basketball essay ever: A Sense of Where You Are, John McPhee's portrait of Bill Bradley, then a Princeton undergrad, originally pubbed in the New Yorker and his book. As I recollect, from 40-plus years ago, the best scene, he's watching Bradley practice by himself. After a few throws, Bradley announces that the basket is one-quarter inch too low. He gets a ladder and tape measure. It is. Worst scene: Bradley psyches himself before every game with a playing of "Climb Every Mountain." You may remember his NCAA playoff farewell: a quarterfinal 50 points that many say stands as one of the great individual efforts. The basketball book which moved me the most, though, is Counting Coup by Larry Colton, about a Native American woman basketball star--very sad."--Chris Kerr of Parson Weems.

"A must read for any true fan of basketball is John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are. Period."--Tim Huggins

And, as a future contender:

"It's impossible not to jump on this challenge, especially when we’re all about to be swept up in wagering our few remaining pennies on the NCAA tourney. Making bets is in the air, and I just want to give readers of Shelf Awareness some inside intel. The frontrunner for the best basketball book ever written is yet to come, but it’s coming this fall in When the Game was Ours by Larry Bird and Earvin Magic Johnson, with Jackie MacMullan. In this irresistible collaboration, two of basketball’s greatest icons open up to a veteran sportswriter as never before to deliver a fascinating and intimate narrative of their decades-long rivalry cum friendship. It is, on the one hand, a provocative portrait of three decades in counterpoint. On the other hand it is a wild ride through professional basketball’s best times--short shorts, bad hair and some of the most amazing basketball ever played."--Susan Canavan, executive editor, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which will publish the book in November.


Tiny Reparations Books: Gone Like Yesterday by Janelle M. Williams


Notes: ABA on Digital Commerce; Sam Weller's on the Move

In a white paper to the American Booksellers Association board published in Bookselling This Week, chief program officer Len Vlahos made the case for the association engaging further in digital commerce. He recommended, among other things, that the ABA offer a variety of e-book titles in a variety of formats for a range of devices on its E-Commerce Solution; promote those options online and in stores; reach out to partners; educate members about social media, e-commerce and e-books, making those subjects "a centerpiece of education" this year and next; create a task force to study the issue's challenges and opportunities; and communicate with consumers about booksellers' roles in providing digital media.


Citing the economic downturn as "the last of numerous circumstances" influencing the decision, Sam Weller's Bookstore, Salt Lake City, Utah, plans to close its store on South Main Street, where it has been since 1961, and move to a new location. In a press release featured at, owners Catherine and Tony Weller said they are "very enthusiastic about the possibilities of a newly conceived bookstore in a better location. It is our intent to remain somewhere in the downtown area, and to maintain the mix of new, used and rare books that readers have found at Weller's books for years."

They noted that this is the fourth site for the family-owned bookshop, adding, "We have considered the evolution of our culture and the prospects for bookstores carefully, and we are entering a new paradigm of bookselling, one that we think will serve the evolving interests of contemporary readers."

The Wellers, who are in the early stages of a search for a new location, concluded on an optimistic note: "We are confident, despite current economic circumstances and challenging factors in the book industry, that our new bookstore will become a nexus of downtown community and culture."


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has chosen not to sell its trade and reference division "after an auction that brought three serious bidders," the New York Times reported.

"After all thorough evaluations and thorough due diligence, we feel that we can grow the business internally and organizationally at a stronger clip than we would benefit from selling it," said Houghton Mifflin's chief executive Tony Lucki of the decision by the company's Irish owner, Education Media and Publishing Group.


The ABA has offered a "first look" at programming for its seventh annual Day of Education, scheduled for Thursday, May 28, at BookExpo America. According to Bookselling This Week, the "ABA program continues and builds upon the curriculum begun at the Winter Institute this past January with educational sessions and panels on topics ranging from marketing via social media to budgeting and monitoring sales and expenses, from best practices for handselling to remainder buying, and more." Registration for the Day of Education is now open.


BTW also reported on Tattered Cover media marketing coordinator Patty Scott Miller's recent launch of "Challenge: Keep Independent Bookstores Around the World Thriving" on Facebook, noting that "it quickly attracted more than 550 members. Her goal, she said, is to start 'a grassroots effort to get more people to buy their books online via IndieBound.'"


Author Joe Hill has raised the stakes for March-Is-Love-Your-Indie-Bookstore Month by creating Love Your Indie: The Contest, with the grand prize of a signed, slipcased copy of Gunpowder. To qualify for the random drawing, entrants must go to a local independent bookstore and buy something, then send a photo or scan of the receipt to Joe Hill Fiction.

"I realized trying to guilt people into going shopping with their local guy sucks. We don't need guilt here; we need a contest," Hill wrote on his blog, adding, "But wait! There's more. As this thing goes along, I'll be adding other signed editions of other books for other randomly drawn winners. Stay tuned. And remember, even if you lose you win, because you will have supported a small bookstore, and come away with something worth reading. . . . Now go to your indie bookstore and buy yerself a book."


Scam alert: Rhoda Wolff, general manager at Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, Mich., reported that an order she received via e-mail had the earmarks of a potential scam. The letter, to the attention of store owner/store manager from Paul Jackson, begins, "WE ARE PAUL JACKSON INSTITUTE WE DO WANT TO PLACE AN ORDER FOR 50 COPIES OF EACH OF THE TWO BOOKS LISTED BELOW." The two books were Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

According to Wolff, "When I attempted to get a phone number, address, or any further information, the e-mail said he was in meetings all day and would only communicate via e-mail. When I googled Paul Jackson Institute, there were no exact matches. This closely resembles another scam we dealt with a few years ago in which our stores were contacted by phone through an operator that was speaking on behalf of someone who was hearing impaired. I just thought it would be great if you could let other bookstores know that we suspect that this is some sort of scam, and to be aware."


The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is the 16th and most recent selection for One Book, One Chicago. Cisneros, the only daughter in a family of nine, grew up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. According to the Sun-Times, she "graduated from St. Josephinum High School and Loyola University and taught high school dropouts at the Latino Youth Alternative High School who inspired her award-winning book."


Senator Edward M. Kennedy's memoir, True Compass, will be released this fall, according to the Associated Press. The book will be published by Hachette's Twelve imprint.


Effective March 26, Jen Haller becomes v-p, associate publisher of Penguin Young Readers Group.

She started her career as a buyer for Joseph-Beth Booksellers, then became national accounts manager at Candlewick Press and later moved to Houghton Mifflin, where she was responsible for the wholesale channel as well as Canadian sales. In 2004, she joined Harcourt as v-p of sales, children's books, and was named v-p of sales and marketing, children's books, in 2007. When Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt merged, she became the associate publisher of the HMH children's list.


GLOW: Disney-Hyperion: Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Zoe Heller, Author of The Believers

This morning on Morning Edition: Zoe Heller, author of The Believers (Harper, $25.99, 9780061430206/006143020X)


Harper: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Movies: Directors Named for Eclipse and Indian Summer

Summit Entertainment has chosen Juan Antonio Bayona to direct Eclipse, the third movie based upon Stephenie Meyer's bestselling Twilight series. Bayona  directed the Spanish-language horror-thriller, The Orphanage. Variety reported that Eclipse is scheduled for a June 30, 2010, release. New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz, will open Nov. 20, 2009.


Joe Wright, director of The Soloist and Atonement, will direct Indian Summer, adapted from Alex von Tunzelmann's book about the last days of Britain's colonial rule in India. "After making The Soloist in L.A., I was looking for something that was primarily about the British experience," he told Variety.


BINC: Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship

Books & Authors

Awards: National Book Critics Circle; Publishing Triangle

A translated novel, 2666 by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño (trans. by Natasha Wimmer), has won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction. The nonfiction winner was New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins for The Forever War.

My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel Sabar took the prize for autobiography, and the biography award went to Patrick French for The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul.

In the poetry category, a dual prize was given to August Kleinzahler for Sleeping It Off in Rapid City and Juan Felipe Herrera for Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems.

Seth Lerer's Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter won the criticism prize.


Martin Duberman is the 2009 recipient of the Publishing Triangle's Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. Carole DeSanti is the winner of the Publishing Triangle's Leadership Award, which recognizes contributions to lesbian and gay literature by those who are not primarily writers.

Finalists were named this week for the Publishing Triangle's 21st Annual Triangle Awards, which will be presented May 7 at the Tishman Auditorium of the New School for Social Research in New York City. The awards honor the best lesbian and gay fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in 2008. For more information, go go


Book Brahmin: Olen Steinhauer

Olen Steinhauer is the author of a five-book sequence of crime/espionage novels focusing on Eastern Europe during the Cold War, beginning with The Bridge of Sighs and ending with Victory Square. The Tourist (St. Martin's Minotaur, March 2009), his latest, deals with the contemporary world of espionage (and we think it's superb). Having lived throughout the U.S., in Croatia, Romania and Italy, he now makes home with his wife and daughter in Hungary.

On your nightstand now:

My next book. I know how self-important that sounds, but it's giving me so much trouble that I find it impossible to give another author any attention at all. But the last book I read was Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, which excited me less than I'd hoped. As soon as I've finished this book, though, Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March will follow.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was obsessed with science fiction as a child, and I remember being particularly taken by Jack L. Chalker's Well of Souls series, which mixed sci-fi and fantasy to an extraordinary degree.

Your top five authors:

Tough one, but I'll give it a shot. Milan Kundera, simply for The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality, which rank, for me, as two of the greatest novels ever written and a real inspiration for any novelist looking to see what can be done with that flexible form, the novel. James Joyce brought me to writing as a life aim. John Le Carre's work in the '70s remains unsurpassed in the spy genre. Ernest Hemingway, despite the weathering he's taken over the years, remains a favorite of mine, and in a similar vein so do those delicate jewels that Raymond Carver wrote before he died too young. There are more . . .

Book you've faked reading:

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. I don't usually fake having read books, but it was a party, it was late, I was drunk, and . . . well, you know.

Book you're an evangelist for:

During my U.S. book tour last summer, I was surprised by how few people had read Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and found myself rabidly evangelizing in every city. It's a wonderful book I reread yearly to remind myself how good the spy genre can be, and how far I still have to go.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The aforementioned Austerlitz. Still haven't read the damned thing, though.

Book that changed your life:

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce. I was in Zagreb at the time, 19 years old, just learning how to smoke and drink. The book was assigned reading, but I was swiftly sucked into it. There's a famous scene where the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, is on a beach. From what I remember, he sees a girl and a bird taking flight, and in that moment is struck dumb by the realization that he must become an "artist" to create "life out of life." The passage floored me, and as Stephen had his epiphany, I had the same one. I closed the book and lay on my dorm cot and decided that if I could have that kind of effect on someone, simply through the use of words, I could die happy. That's how I became a writer. Unlikely, but true.

If you could choose an author to review your book, who would it be?

Another tough one. The problem is that I read the question as, "What author would you most like to love your book?" Le Carre comes to mind, though I'm not the kind of person to bet he would actually review it kindly. Milan Kundera? Oh how I'd love him to love it! Sadly, though, I doubt he would.

Favorite line from a book:

I'm not a quoter--my memory is too shoddy for that--but this is something I do remember repeating to friends after I'd read The Honourable Schoolboy by Le Carre: "At bad times in his life--money, children, women all adrift--there had been a sense of peace that came from realizing that staying alive was his only responsibility." It's sometimes given me a sense of peace as well.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--simply because I want to know if it would have the same incredible effect on me again. The fear that it won't has kept me from ever rereading it.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Is 'Doing Great!' the Wrong Thing to Say Now?

That's the question we asked last week. Aaron Curtis, Quartermaster of the buying office at Books & Books, Miami, Fla., observes that owner Mitchell Kaplan "has always been a 'business is booming' kind of guy. The trick for us in the buying office has been to educate customers without sounding desperate. So often, businesses and schools approach me saying they want to support our local business, not realizing that support means money. After providing specifics on discount and pricing of the title(s) the customer wants, here's the 'speech' I use":

We will never be able to compete with Amazon (or perhaps I should say, very rarely) when it comes to pricing. Huge companies like Amazon can offer deeper discounts because their buying power enables them to leverage better discounts from the publishers. Also, their overhead is significantly lower than ours. Our community profile says high end, but we are David in a sea of Goliaths.

On the plus side, the lion's share of Books & Books sales revenue goes back into the local economy, not to corporate headquarters or distant suppliers. We help make Miami a unique place, rather than a chain bookstore that can be found in any city in America, or an internet retailer 3,400 miles away. We live here, we work here, and your purchase will help keep us here. As long as the community thinks of us, we can continue to employ locally, as well as donate time, money, and books to local charities, hospitals, hospices, and low-income schools . . . and schedule great authors, of course. Let me know when you're ready to order the books.

Curtis adds that he empathizes with Fred Powell's story about explaining how the industry works to his book group. "I had a similar experience," he says. "One of our members belongs to another book group that has been meeting at Books & Books for 14 years. I was very frank with our group. I explained how consignment and returns frustrated our ability to keep titles in stock, and how publishers have become very unforgiving lately. She took this back to her other group, and sales from them have increased dramatically, both in the store and through our website."

Ultimately, Curtis believes, "Now is not the time for a stiff upper lip. Now is the time to let our loyal customers know we are suffering with them, and how much we appreciate their business."

So, what do our customers really know and when did they know it? That's a good question, too. Another bookseller e-mailed me the following message--received from a customer who travels to his area frequently enough to care about his bookshop--suggesting this might be "a representative 21st century customer":

"I admit it. I love bookstores," the note begins, "love the cafe atmosphere, too. Especially love independent stores where there are lists and signs telling me what the staff recommends. I could live in a bookstore. I read a lot--used to buy books a lot too. Now here's the real painful admission. I bought a Kindle. I love my Kindle--it's perfect for those books I just don't want to own forever. The ones I'd read and just give away anyway. Do I feel guilty? Hell yes. So guilty that I buy all my daughter's birthday party presents at my independent store now; I make sure I never purchase a knitting book or cookbook from Amazon. You can't buy those on a Kindle--they don't make sense. I'm guilty though because I've stopped buying fiction. And I was a big time fiction buyer before--sometimes 5-6 books a week."

She goes on to say that she does still buy some fiction because of staff recommendations or author events, but adds, "I don't know what this says other than bookstores that aren't also 'destinations' are not going to make it. What makes me go to my indie bookstore now? Coffee and lunch with friends, author events, toys for parties and when I have a must-have knitting or cookbook. Though I have to tell you in these tough times it's very hard not to purchase those on Amazon, too, since I have an Amazon Visa and get $25 gift certificates every few months as a perk. I try to save those for groceries or clothes though. So you see I mean well, but the Kindle is just so damn good."

She knows the challenges indies face, as well as the benefits we offer, and yet . . .

What do we tell her? What should we ask her?--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


The Bestsellers

Top Mystery Sellers in February

The following were the bestselling titles at member stores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association during February:


1. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (Holt)
2. The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan (St. Martin's)
3. Whisper in the Blood by Dana Stabenow (St. Martin's)
3. All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson (Morrow)
5. A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (St. Martin's)
6. A Darker Domain by Val McDermid (Harper)
7. Night and Day by Robert B. Parker (Putnam)
8. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Penguin)
9. Beat the Ripper by Josh Bazell (Little, Brown)
9. The Renegades by T. Jefferson Parker (Dutton)
9. Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein (Random House)


1. Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle (Signet)
2. Bookmarked for Death by Lorna Barrett (Berkley)
3. Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris (St. Martin's)
4. Silent on the Moor by Denise Raybourn (Mira)
5. Silver Swan by Benjamin Black (Picador)
6. A Lie for a Lie by Emilie Richards (Berkley)
6. Evil in Carnations by Kate Collins (Signet)
8. Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter by Nancy Atherton (Penguin)
9. Nameless Nights by G.M. Ford (Harper)
9. Death Takes the Cake by Melinda Wells (Berkley)

[Many thanks to the IMBA!]


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